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article image'X Company' star Evelyne Brochu gets lost in translation Special

By A.R. Wilson     Mar 1, 2016 in Entertainment
Montreal actress Evelyne Brochu tells Digital Journal about Aurora's heartbreaking season on 'X Company,' Delphine's future on 'Orphan Black,' and getting lost in language.
Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for 'X Company.'
Sometimes Evelyne Brochu's career gets lost, quite literally, in translation.
When the Montreal native first began acting in English four years ago, few people in anglophone Canada — and even fewer in the United States — knew about her impressive French-language career in Quebec, which includes not only extensive TV credits, but film work with top-tier directors Denis Villenueve (Polytechnique), Jean-Marc Vallee (Café de Flore), and Xavier Dolan (Tom à la ferme). She was viewed, she says, as a "blank slate."
Now that her English-language career has exploded — with a lead role on CBC's World War II spy drama X Company, a three-season stint on cult sci-fi series Orphan Black, and a supporting film role opposite Tobey Maguire in last year's Pawn Sacrifice — she finds that some people in Quebec fear she's hit the unemployment line.
"Sometimes I come back to Quebec and somebody in a cafe will be like, 'Oh, um, you haven't been on TV in a while, we haven't seen you. I hope you get a little part soon,'" Brochu laughs. "Because they kind of feel like you haven't worked in four years. They don't know that you've been, you know, busy with other things."
And Brochu definitely has been busy. And well-traveled. In addition to filming Orphan Black in Toronto and X Company in Budapest last year, she shot French-language film Miséricorde in the tumbleweed town of Matagami, Quebec, and Tonic Immobility — her first film speaking French-from-France — in Brussels. And on the morning of our interview, she phones from Vancouver, where she is shooting the Mark Palansky-helmed Rememory with Peter Dinklage and Julia Ormond.
"It's been a very exciting year, I must say," she says. "I miss my friends [in Montreal], but I'm happy."
Not that she has any plans to leave Quebec — at least not permanently. "There's so much good stuff, and that's one of the reasons why, in my head, I haven't left and I won't leave," she says. "Although, I do, physically. I'm traveling a lot, but I'm attached to some Quebec films that I can't wait to be financed and to do them, because they're amazing. I've never wanted to open the doors to close them behind me. I just wanted them to be open."
No accent required
In Rememory, Brochu plays Wendy, a gallery owner who takes part in the testing of a revolutionary machine that objectively records memories. The part is her third as a straight-up anglophone (the others being Donna in Pawn Sacrifice and Celestine in the creepy David Cronenberg short, The Nest) after first breaking into English roles by playing characters with French backgrounds. "That door is opening up," she says. "It's cool to reach into your own background and make that resonate with a character, don't get me wrong, but it's also fun to know that you can step up to other opportunities in terms of a character's background, and you're not only limited to that."
Raised a francophone in the anglo-heavy West Island area of Montreal, Brochu began picking up English at a young age. She says that, careerwise, she has never particularly fretted over any tiny accent traces that may occasionally bleed into her English; however, she does believe in getting the job right. "When I'm playing a Wendy or a Donna, then I'm a little bit more careful, I prepare a little more," she says. "Because that's the character. If I'm doing my job well at being someone else, I have to go all the way."
X Company
Of X Company s Aurora and Sabine:  They both committed a big sacrifice that really shattered them   ...
Of X Company's Aurora and Sabine: "They both committed a big sacrifice that really shattered them," says Evelyne Brochu.
Courtesy of CBC Television
X Company viewers can attest to Brochu's willingness to go all-in. In the show — which is now airing its sophomore season — she plays Aurora, the complicated, conflicted leader of a team of Allied agents fighting the Nazis in 1942 German-occupied France. In one of this season's most shocking moments, Aurora was forced to perform a mercy killing on her lover René (Francois Arnaud) to spare him from (again) falling into Nazi hands. "When I read the episode, I was like, 'Whoa,'" she says. "There's a part of you as an actor that's really excited, that's like, 'God, I'm so lucky that I get to play this', but then you're like, 'Am I gonna be up for the challenge?' There's a part of you that's nervous because it's so great, you want to be able to honour that."
And how did she prepare for such an emotional scene? "Some people can flip and be like super focused in a split second, but for me, it takes a while," she says. "Maybe I should meditate more and I'd be able to do it faster, but I'm not there yet. So I listen to a lot of music that I think will help me get to where I need to get. I move a lot. I think, that day, I drank a lot of coffee trying to get, not only to that emotional place, but physical place of absolute fear and absolute love. What state do you need to be in to do something like that?"
If the devastating scene required a major ramp up on her part, letting it go was easier. "If you feel that it's actually suffering, then you're forgetting that it's fiction," Brochu says. "There's a pride and there's a lot of joy that goes into making the best fiction that you can."
That attitude helps when dealing with the show's often heavy subject matter. "When you're talking about World War II, you are affected by the fact that not only mercy killings, but a lot of terrible, terrible things happened to real people, and if you're constantly dwelling on that, you absolutely have to use it, and you have to be humbled by it, and you have to have a lot of respect for the fact that it actually happened and you have to go there," she explains. "But you also have to step out of it, because it's four months of your life. You can't just linger there, because there is joy to life, and it's also a smart thing to remind yourself of and to celebrate. Because if not, there's just no point to anything."
This season also challenged Brochu by having French-Canadian-Jewish-German Aurora speak markedly more German than she did in Season 1, a slight wrinkle considering that the actress doesn't actually speak German. When faced with similar hurdles in past roles — such as in the 2012 film Inch'Allah, where her French-Canadian character also spoke Arabic — she's jumped right into language-learning mode only to be thwarted by time constraints. "Every time, I feel very ambitious, and I feel like, 'This is it,'" she laughs. "Because I speak two languages, but I wish I spoke six. If I had an extra day in the week, I think that's what I'd dedicate it to."
For X Company, she made recordings of co-star and native German-speaker Torben Liebrecht (who plays deliciously complex Nazi villain Franz Faber) speaking her lines, and then worked to mimic them in both sound and meaning. The process was painstaking and time-consuming but produced convincing results. "What I was really proud of is that I went to set on a big German day, having worked on it for like a million hours, and then I was with Livia (Matthes), who plays Sabine, and she said, 'You have a bit of a Munich accent,'" she says. "And I was like, 'What? Where's Torben from?' And she's like, 'He's from Munich.' I felt so proud."
Orphan Black
Will Delphine return to Orphan Black?  After three years doing sci-fi  I know how to not give hints ...
Will Delphine return to Orphan Black? "After three years doing sci-fi, I know how to not give hints," says Evelyne Brochu.
Courtesy of Bell Media
On Orphan Black, which offered her her first English-speaking role as spectacularly-coiffed French import Delphine Cormier in 2013, Brochu's greatest challenge hasn't been language, it's been spoilers.
"Sci-fi is crazy," she says. "I wasn't allowed to put my call sheets in the recycling bin. They were like, 'Be careful with everything!' I would give my scripts to my mom, because I don't have space in my apartment, and tell her to wait for the episode to air so she could put them in her recycling bin. I don't want to get caught. Like I don't want them to be angry at me. It tells you the level of how careful we have to be."
What could possibly send an Orphan Black fan head-first into a recycling bin? Oh, just the hope of resolving Season 3's gut-wrenching cliffhanger ending, which saw Delphine gunned down after a selfless season protecting ex-girlfriend Cosima and the rest of her clone sisters (all played by the phenomenal Tatiana Maslany) from DYAD, Topside, and — big twist! — Neolution. Delphine was last seen bleeding out alone on the pavement of a parking garage, her life hanging in the balance.
Holy Twitter meltdown. The only thing more persistent than the #SaveDelphine campaign that followed the finale, which aired last June, has been the refusal of series creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett to give away Delphine's fate.
Can Brochu provide any answers? She sighs, then giggles before saying, "I can't. I can't say anything."
But did she anticipate the outcry? "No, I never did, actually," she says. "There's such a love for Delphine that I think, in a way, has nothing to do with me. I think Graeme and John created a character that I think resonates for a lot of people, and I think it's not only the character, I think it's her union with Cosima, also. I think it's really important to a lot of people."
She continues, "I think it's one of the best things that can happen to an actor, when you do something that is meaningful to people. And seeing how it's meaningful enough to care about the life or the death or the journey of that character, it just means so much. You can only be thankful, and I only have John and Graeme to thank for that, because they're the ones who created such a smart, progressive show."
Some fans have vowed not to tune in again unless Delphine returns, but Brochu believes quality TV will win the day. "It's such a good show, you know?" she says. "It's really not only because of me. There's a whole lot of really, you know, amazing talent combined in that show, starting with Tatiana Maslany, but including everybody else that's on the show."
Whatever Delphine's ultimate fate, she appreciates the support. "I don't want to disrespect the grief or like the meaning that it had. As I said, I'm honoured that people care so much about something I did, you know?"
Piecing it all together
In past interviews, Brochu has mentioned feeling fatigued after working exclusively in English for long periods of time, such as during X Company's three-month Season 1 shoot in 2014. Now, though, she's feeling more integrated. "I think you just start building confidence, and it's sort of a place in which there's no translation, it's just spontaneous work," she explains. "And then it becomes you, as well. You're like, 'Oh, this is not a language on top of my language. This is me.' That's the flip that's happened in the last three years."
That feeling of wholeness also applies to her career — even if others don't always connect all the pieces. "I don't feel split," she says. "I feel it's what I do, and wherever I am, it's what I'm doing, and it's my craft and it's my process and it's my journey. And if I'm in Belgium or Vancouver or in Quebec, I'm an actor moving forward, project by project, trying to do things that resonate with me, trying to grow with every project. I think that's what I've sort of being trying to achieve, and trying to feel like I'm not deserting any territory, I'm not leaving a place because I'm going someplace else. I'm there."
But for Brochu, the pull and pride of home is always strong. "The cinema that comes out of Quebec, I'm so proud to be a part of that, uh — I don't like the word industry, you know what I mean? — but it's so good."
A few minutes later, the Quebec film "industry" again pops up in our conversation, and she starts searching for an English equivalent to her preferred French term. "What's another word we could use instead?" she asks. "It's like milieu. It's not medium. It's a group of people doing one thing. Like le milieu de la mode, le milieu du cinema, the fashion milieu, the cinema milieu. What would be another word for industry?"
"Community!" she exclaims in victory. "Yeah, I'm in love with that community."
Translation found.
'X Company' airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC
'Miséricorde,' directed by Fulvio Bernasconi, is due in 2016
'Tonic Immobility,' directed by Nathalie Teirlinck, is due in 2016
Follow Evelyne Brochu on Twitter.
Follow A.R. Wilson on Twitter.
More about evelyne brochu, X Company, Orphan Black
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